Sunday, December 30, 2012
Rayo leave Real in the dark
ESPN FC's network of correspondents are dedicated to bringing you the best news and features from around the globe, and here are some of their favourite moments from 2012.
• Dermot Corrigan, Spain Correspondent
Writing about Spanish football, there's often a need to cover various extra-curricular issues - finances, corruption, violence, sometimes even sex - but 2012 was the year that 'football terrorism' arrived when Real Madrid visited Rayo Vallecano in late September.
Something interesting generally happens at Vallecas - I've seen Rayo and Betis fans happily posing together for photos beside a burning police car, rotund former Rayo coach Jose Ramon Sandoval star-jumping in front of Atletico's Diego to stop a quick throw-in, and many and varied fans protests and celebrations. It's usually fun, no matter what happens on the pitch.
But even for Vallecas, September's Madrid fixture was a strange one. After legging it through a gathering storm to the ground, I was told my name was not on the press list (not a unique experience at Vallecas) and to wait just inside the door while they checked upstairs.
Leaning against the wall, I noticed that no fans were being let into the stadium, and that it was dark inside. The club official said there was a problem with the floodlights which was being sorted out.
So I waited, listening to the rain drumming on the roof and the increasingly loud grumbling and occasional angry chants of Rayo fans massing outside. Their only information was the irregular tannoy announcements that said the game was delayed and thanking them for their patience. Mine ran out, so I got up and climbed the steps to see what was going on.
The stands were empty except for about 200 Madrid fans who had been let in early. Out on the pitch, Jose Mourinho was holding an impromptu training session, with Ronaldo, Alonso, Ozil and co running around in the gloom. Rayo had been out earlier but were now back in their dressing-room.
Word came (via Twitter - ironic considering that the journalists in the stadium were supposed to be covering the game live) that Rayo president Martin Presa had told Spanish TV the game was off because persons unknown had sabotaged the stadium's electricity system.
While Mourinho kept away from the cameras, Madrid sporting director Miguel Pardeza and Rayo coach Paco Jemez debated when the game should now be played.
Eventually (about 45 minutes after the game had been due to kick off), the tannoy told the 10,000 or so Rayo fans outside to go home as the match was off. Apart from a few idiots who broke a window while trying to get a refund from a ticket official, the crowd wandered off into the night without complaint.
As I made my way home, Rayo president Martin Presa was on the radio suggesting that the club's bukaneros ultras were behind the sabotage, which was a protest against the ticket prices for Madrid's visit. There were a couple of hours of further confusion and arguments between club and league officials before the game was finally fixed for the following evening - floodlights permitting.
At a press conference on the Monday, Presa said the game would go ahead "unless a meteorite falls on us" and revealed via a whiteboard how wires had been expertly cut in 12 cable boxes, taking 57 floodlights out of action. The fresh-faced businessman, 35, also told bemused reporters that a new social problem had reared its ugly head: "football terrorism".
In the end there was (thankfully) no meteorite, the floodlights worked and Madrid won an uneventful game easily with goals from Benzema and Ronaldo.
There has been no further sign of 'football terrorism' either, with the saboteurs now thought to have been disgruntled former Rayo employees.